Monday, January 06, 2003

Early January Laziness

First impediment for any Croatian who wants to fulfil his/her share of the usual New Year resolutions comes in the first days of January. In that time many unfortunate souls would realises that getting things done or merely starting to get things done is very difficult due to the public holiday legislation in this country. You see, this day – January 6th – is Twelfth Day, church holiday that was introduced as public holiday by Tudjman’s regime in early 1990s. So, the holiday season more or less lasts between December 24th and January 7th. In that time, only the most essential businesses operate and even the public sector, including postal service, works at half speed. Video stores don’t receive new shipments of VHS and DVD titles, cinema theatres don’t receive new copies of films, if your PC is broken, you aren’t likely to get anyone to fix it, if you want to pay some bills you have to wait for the mail to arrive etc. So, it takes some amount of willpower for any individual not to succumb to the general laziness and actually start doing something, instead of merely waiting for January 7th and thus finding the perfect excuse to remain the old lazy self.

In the good old Communist days it wasn’t like that. Holiday season was much shorter. Christmas wasn’t public holiday (it was more or less tolerated, depending on the ideological purity of officials who pretended that December 25th was just another day off for their co-workers and subordinates) and instead New Year served its purpose, together with all the iconography - trees, gifts and Santa Claus (called “Grandfather Frost”). Just like Boxing Day today, January 2nd was also public holiday, thus allowing “working people and citizens” of Communist country one extra day to deal with post-New Year hangover. But January 3rd was the working day and anyone wanting to start something new had theoretical time-span of 3-5 working days until the first Sunday.

Situation in with public holidays in Croatia isn’t any better in the rest of the year. This is mostly to present-day government’s half-heartedness in their attempts to separate modern Croatia from Tudjman’s legacy. One of the examples is Statehood Day – May 30th – the most controversial of all Tudjman’s holidays. It was introduced in 1991, only a year after the day Tudjman and his party had formally taken power in Croatia and long before crucial decisions about independence were made. There were at least two much better and accurate choices for the holiday marking Croatian independence – June 25th (the day when Sabo/Parliament formally declared independence in 1991) and October 8th (the day when Sabor formally ended “all constitutional connections with the rest of Yugoslavia” after the end of EU-sponsored independence moratorium in 1991). Since 2002, Croatia has new two new holidays – new Statehood Day at June 25th and Independence Day on October 8th. However, in order to placate neo-Tudjmanist crowd, both in government and in opposition, government also introduced an obscure church holiday in late May, since it was celebrated on May 30th.

Further problems with holidays in Croatia stem from the ideological issues. One holiday – June 22nd, Antifascist Struggle Day – was supposed to mark the anniversary of the first Partisan action in Croatia in 1941. The purpose of holiday was to show the rest of the world that Tudjman’s Croatia in spirit, as well as in its Constitution, has its foundation in the state created by Partisans in 1944 and can claim to be among WW2 winners. However, although Tudjman insisted on this holiday, it wasn’t much observed in his country. In many areas, especially those controlled by more extreme members of his party, the holiday was very publicly non-observed, even by local administration. For them June 22nd marked “Serbo-Communist uprising against legitimate authorities of Independent State of Croatia” and to honour it would be utter disgrace.

Traces of such sentiments could be found even today. Some business establishments, especially those run or controlled by public figures known for their right-wing views, not only stay open on June 22nd, but extend this to May 1st – International Labour Day, which is universally recognised as public holiday in the rest of Europe. When I visited one of such establishments and asked one of the employees about this, she said that they could have stayed open because the holiday was “Communist”. I replied that May 1st was somewhat more universal phenomenon and that it was celebrated even in Hitler’s Third Reich. That later led me thinking about New Year itself. Celebration of New Year in Croatia is relatively new phenomenon and it was introduced by Party’s decree only few years after the end of WW2. If Croatian right-wingers are principled they would abolish New Year. However, although prospect of right wing returning to power in Croatia seems more realistic today than it was a year ago, I don’t think that they would dare touching that. This is probably one of the more comforting thoughts for these depressive days.


I received first feedback. So, someone actually reads this blog. This thought is even more comforting. Thank you, guys, for making this day a little bit better.


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